Tea With Chris is a roundup of recommended links, posted every Friday. Here are a few of our favourite things from the Internet this week:
Margaux: I finally read the beautiful piece by Mark Greif on Radiohead from a 2005 N+1 issue. He writes about how the music builds a memorizing construction of a person coping with both tolerance and defiance (and occasionally forceful acceptance) for a world he can’t fight or escape. Since he believes himself to be alone in these feelings, defiance is his main option. Greif’s approach to pop is a little more anthropological than participatory, but I am always happy with an approach to pop. His text offers one of the most poetic and concise distinctions between defiance and revolution that I have come across.
I read Greif’s text about a month ago and it has stayed in my mind while I’ve watched the coming together of so many people in the Occupy Wall Street movement. It has been hard so far in the baby part of this century not to feel lamely defiant and isolated: Uselessly playing tear-gas-cat-and-mouse with the police at G20 summits while those in power get a great amount of work done somewhere way beyond the high fences. Watching Ralph Nader (at that point with a good amount of momentum and support) both be denied to participate in the 2000 presidential televised debates and then later be escorted off the corporate premises. He was escorted away even though his ticket was just for a seat in a distant screening room. Seeing the cynicism that allows for so much that is immoral to also be so completely legal and seemingly accepted. To see the same old banking CEOs in positions of highest power in the Obama administration. Speaking of which, I just looked up the documentary “Inside Job“ (about the late-2000s financial crisis) on Rotten Tomatoes and saw that it received 97% approval rating from the top critics. This says a lot for a movie that consists of talking-heads, charts and graphs – and a movie that involves Matt Damon – but only uses his voice (as narrator). Even if you know everything about the financial crisis, it is really worth watching for the amazing interviews with some of the participants of the disaster.
It is easy now to see old Thom Yorke wasn’t alone. We can see people coming together publicly against recent tragedies, including the execution of Troy Davis and the shooting of the 24-year-old Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen in Oakland. And all of the other injustices that are occurring not just to individuals but to a growing mass.
Back to N+1. I was surprised to see that the fairly good-intentioned, Ivy-League-masculine literary magazine had put out the “Occupy! Gazette” . Its contributors are a much more diverse lot from across North America. It’s really good to see, in the Occupy movement and in this Gazette, the coming together of such different groups of people. It was initiated by the activist and filmmaker Astra Taylor and the editor Mark Greif and edited Sarah Leonard of Dissent. It’s a generous and useful action to share publicly these early stages – as it has been with the website occupywallst and the more participatory Wiki Occupy Home.
Reading all these things is like looking at early blueprints – sketches of a project just started. It made me think of one of my favourite books – Stuart Kauffman’s “At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity”. It’s a science book and not at all about social movements. But Kauffman’s argument is about the natural self-organization of life. He talks about how the greatest amount of new life develops between the greatest amount of chaos and, on the other side, order. It is great to see that the Occupy movements haven’t moved to too much order just yet. It is great to have the upside-down world land in such a mess and see so many people patiently start to organize what is around them – to be more concerned with the blueprint than with declarations of war.
Instead of fighting outside the gates of power, we are now the ones who are holding the meetings. And not just a meeting, but maybe one of the longest conferences in history – thanks in part to the difference between occupying and protesting, being able to re-claim space and time in public. In Art Fag City, in an article by Paddy Johnson about artists occupying art spaces, Johnson nicely articulated this point: “This is what is new and transformative about the movement and, ultimately, what Occupy Museums is about: using the open process of self-education as a means of self empowerment. It is a fight against passivity”.
Occasional, it’s wise to try to keep your mind in the boundaries of what you understand to be realistic hopes, but it can also make you deformed. It sure does feel like a mind-blowing expansion of those boundaries to suddenly hear the words anarchism and socialism mentioned (occasionally) in less villainous terms in mainstream media.
All of this feels like watching a little flowers grow on the scorched hills of Sudbury. **Oh! Sorry Sudbury, I see your clear-cut-mining-sulfuric-acid-charred hills have been growing little flowers for quite some time now!
Chris: Corporate executives judging value poorly, part one: the $130 cheque that bought all rights to Superman. (Though one could say DC was all too insightful in this case.)
Corporate executives judging value poorly, part two:
The birth of a legend: “the other day i was talking to a friend of mine about this pet store in orlando (where i went to college) that hired a guy to stand outside in a dog costume and wave at cars.
occasionally, that guy would just start crumpin’ up a storm when cars would be backed up at the red light near him; it was always my favorite part of my daily drive home from school — i’d literally hope against hope that Crumpin’ Dog would be out and in full-on freak mode…”
Our friend Sheila Heti compiled this oral history of the Mad Hatter, an anarchic birthday-party venue that marked a generation of Toronto kids with its degrading rituals, sullen teenage tormentors and aesthetic of nightmarish surrealism. There’s already dozens and dozens of reminiscing comments, which only reinforce the impression that it was like a sort-of-fun Salo. My parents weren’t too overbearing, but I grew in the ’90s here, not the ’80s, and by then the notion of leaving your spawn in some juvenile demimonde for hours was already unbelievable. Us millennials had to make do with the relatively mundane likes of Laser Quest and Playdium.